I just read a very disturbing definition of solitude.

It is said to be: a state of seclusion or isolation, a lack of contact with people. It may stem from bad relationships, loss of loved one, deliberate choice, infectious disease, mental disorders, neurological disorders or circumstances of employment or situation.” 

Are you kidding me? Well, I should know better than to check Wikipedia for a definition, so the fault is mine. 

In reading a definition like this, it would seem that solitude is something to be avoided at all costs, that it’s a sign of something not-quite-right in our heads or our hearts.

In truth, solitude — in my opinion, at least — is a very necessary part of life, and our ability to appreciate quiet moments alone is a sign of emotional well-being.

“Language … has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.” ― Paul TillichThe Eternal Now

I once knew a young man who couldn’t stand solitude. He called himself a “real people person” and had to have almost constant human contact.  George and I were neighbors — way back in the days when I was single, living alone, and thoroughly enjoying it.  I rented one side of a duplex, George rented the other, and never have two so totally different personalities ever existed side-by-side.

I cherished my solitude, loved peace and quiet, and could happily go days without seeing another soul. Of course, with George next door, I rarely had that opportunity. He was always knocking on my door, just needing somebody to talk to.  Even though he might have a dozen friends coming over that evening, he couldn’t bear the thought of spending even an hour or two alone.  Much to my relief, George soon found a roommate, and eventually he found a girlfriend. I hope he also found happiness.

I felt sorry for George and always thought it sad that he had such a desperate need to be around other people at all times. Of course, I’m sure he felt sorry for me, as well. From his perspective, I must surely have been miserable.

Solitude can be taken to extremes, of course, and I know that all too well. I do have a tendency to shut myself away from the rest of the world. I can easily get lost inside my own head, and sometimes it takes a bit of prodding to get me out and about. But I know it’s for my own good. Solitude is important, but it must be balanced with healthy interactions and active participation in life.

I’m occasionally surprised, though, by how many people there are who, like George, seem to think solitude is a fate worse than death.  It’s true that prolonged isolation is considered one of the worst forms of punishment we humans can endure, but it’s also true that solitude is a key factor in creative development.

Solitude brings opportunities for reflection. It provides a time and a place for mulling things over, for daydreaming, for imagining, for discovering new ideas.

Writers, especially, need solitude. We can’t hear the voices in our head while other people are talking. We can’t close our eyes and envision new worlds while we’re being bombarded with noise and stimuli from a dozen different directions.

If you’re looking to enhance your creativity, or if you’re “stuck” on a writing project or feel that the creative well has run a bit dry, maybe it’s time for a little solitude.


For more creative inspiration, explore these links. Who knows what creative connections you’ll make.